New rural group has sustainable future in sights

Logo: Aim to Sustain

Garry Doolan – Deputy Director of Communications and Public Affairs at BASC - reflects on the launch of a new partnership that brings together nine of the UK’s leading shooting and rural organisations.


The launch of “Aim to Sustain” this summer was a seismic shift in the approach of rural organisations in favour of working smarter and quicker for the benefit of shooting-related conservation and land management.

There is no denying that each of the nine partner organisations have operated effectively in their own right down the years.

And during the last two years, they have even worked jointly to great effect on pressing issues such as the attempts by the Wild Justice pressure group to challenge General Licences in the courts.

They’ve also come together on gamebird releasing, burning, and in planning high-level responses on behalf of shooting to the unique challenges presented by Covid. The arrival of Aim to Sustain is a natural evolution of all that co-operation.

Pheasant chick (BASC)
Pheasant chick (BASC)

There was a wider acknowledgment among the sector that the individual organisations, many of whom rely significantly on membership income to support their activities, could sometimes let self-interest get in the way. A partnership needed to be created that would allow the experts within the organisations to work together with more agility and, dare it be said, less tribalism.

It was perhaps summed up best at the official launch event at The Game Fair by Lord Nick Herbert, chairman of the Countryside Alliance, who said: “Aim to Sustain should be seen as something akin to a NATO for sustainable game shooting.

“Its strength will lie in the sum of all its individual parts; it will be agile in mustering the combined expertise of the individual organisations on issues that matter most to the future of game shooting and rural Britain.”

Aim to Sustain links the Countryside Alliance (CA), British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO), British Game Assurance (BGA), Moorland Association (MA), Scottish Land and Estates (SLE), Game Farmers’ Association (GFA), Country Land and Business Association (CLA). It has the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) as scientific advisors.


While the organisations within Aim to Sustain retain their independence, the partnership will soon begin recruiting a permanent secretariat to coordinate activity.

Aim to Sustain has a clear focus to combine resources when appropriate to deliver on three main goals in support of sustainable game shooting: standards, science and social licence. It’s a powerful union.

Social licence will be secured, in part, by being more proactive in telling the good news story that is sustainable shooting and the benefits of its associated habitat and wildlife management. It has already secured immediate widespread support from elements of the shooting world that have long argued for greater collaboration between its organisations. Lord Ian Botham has been particularly vocal in praise for Aim to Sustain.

Wild Justice has ostensibly failed to secure legislative change, but it has spooked the horses in rural Britain and stirred a shooting community that has become even more unsettled in the last year or so by a perceived shift towards an ‘animal rights’ agenda by elements within government. The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill has focused minds among those who appreciate that shooting must battle harder to improve its reputation among politicians.

Rural commentators have gone as far to suggest that when the amplification of comment and criticism on social media so obviously strikes fear into MPs and other key decision makers, game shooting is fast approaching a critical juncture in its future.

Like the arrival of this year’s Game Fair for a Covid-weary public, some will say Aim to Sustain’s creation has come not a minute too soon.


What they said...

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Shooting and Conservation, said the partnership would be good for the long-term future of sustainable game shooting: “The UK’s leading rural organisations are creating a partnership that will make it easier and quicker to combine their expertise on the issues that matter. That can only be good for the future of sustainable game shooting in the UK.

“The environmental, economic and societal benefits of shooting are well known within the rural community. Those directly involved in shooting understand that such good outcomes do not happen without considerable investment of time and money by the UK’s shooting community. It’s a good story that deserves to be told to decision makers and the general public.

“Aim to Sustain has a clear objective to deliver the research and advocacy that will help get that message out in the most effective way possible. It’s a positive development for shooting that deserves to be widely supported.”

Sir Ian Botham said: “Our patchwork quilt of organisations is uniting to talk to the government and the media about how shooting can best be regulated to serve the interests of both human beings and the natural world they inhabit. The Aim to Sustain coalition will push back on areas where we think policy is wrong.”

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